Relationships Create Church, Not Loyalty to the Institution

They disagree with the Roman Catholic Church’s stances on women, ordination, contraception, and gays and lesbians, but still, they remain faithful to their individual Roman Catholic parishes.

It’s an interesting phenomenon — and surely not new one. But as the institutional church becomes more and more reactionary in its teachings on these issues and the faithful in the U.S. become increasingly more liberal on these issues the connection that Catholics feel to their parish community becomes ever more intriguing.


The Priests We Seek Are Already Working Among Us

Janine Denomme was deeply respected in her church and her community in Chicago. For years, she served her local parish as a lay preacher, church musician, parish council member, spiritual director and religion teacher. She held a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, taught at a number of Catholic colleges, and, later, was the director of youth programs at a Chicago gay and lesbian center. She was an out lesbian in a loving, committed relationship.

Mercy Sr. Margaret McBride has more than 34 years of experience in health care management. Most recently, she served as vice president of mission integration at St. Joseph’s Medical Center, a prominent Catholic hospital in Phoenix, founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1895. McBride was the highest-ranking Mercy sister on the staff, and a member of the hospital’s ethics committee.

Denomme had a lifelong struggle with the church that she loved and her belief that God was calling her to the priesthood. After years of discernment, Denomme decided to pursue ordination in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests community. In April 2009, while preparing to be ordained, Denomme, at the age of 45, learned that she had terminal colorectal cancer. She battled the disease with extraordinary grace, and, as a final act of ministry, kept a powerful journal recounting her illness, treatment, and movement toward death. She was ordained in April 2010. With only a few weeks to live, her dying wish was to have her funeral Mass held at St. Gertrude, the parish she loved and served for years.


A Challenge to Old Progressives

Last Saturday, I attended an event that has undoubtedly happened hundreds of thousands of times on Staten Island, that little known borough of New York City. An Italian guy and an Irish girl got married. It was the first marriage for both of them.

But something was different. The wedding ceremony took place in a catering hall. And the officiant was the cousin of the groom. He had been ordained by an internet-based church just a few weeks earlier.

Though the bride and groom were both baptized and raised Catholic, they were not at all interested in having their ceremony in a church.


Misogynist? Homophobic? We’ve Got the Church for You!

On Friday, Oct. 16 the most e-mailed article on The New York Times Web site was the story of Pat Bond’s fight to receive financial support for the terminally ill son that she conceived with a Franciscan priest over 20 years ago.

Four days later, the eighth most e-mailed Times article told of the Pope’s new initiative to welcome larger numbers of Anglican priests and seminarians, regardless of marital status, into the Roman Catholic clergy.

The Pontiff is putting this plan into practice in an attempt to offer a spiritual home to those who have either left or are considering leaving the Anglican Communion because of their opposition to the ordination of women and openly-gay priests as well as the blessing of same-sex unions.


Why I Still Call Myself Catholic

It’s the question I get more than any other: Do you still consider yourself a Catholic?

It’s the critique I most frequently receive on this blog site: Just leave the church if you’re so unhappy.

Spending seven years at a Protestant divinity school, first as a student and later as an employee, enriched and expanded my understanding of what it means to be Catholic. Before arriving at graduate school, I grew up on Long Island in an Italian Catholic family that rarely went to church. Though I went to religious instruction, received the sacraments with the rest of the girls and boys, and attended church on the big feast days, the influence of the institutional church (involvement in parish life, connections with priests and nuns) was distant at best.


The Church Outside the Walls

I first felt called to the priesthood at the age of 13. It was my first Holy Thursday liturgy. And at that moment, at the close of the liturgy, when the “Pange Lingua” is chanted and every fragment of the Eucharist is carried outside of the church, I experienced something that was both irresistible and quite scary.

I wasn’t sure what I was feeling, but I felt compelled to dedicate my life to whatever was unfolding before me.


The Grace of Living on the Margins

For more than 15 years now, I’ve felt starved by the Roman Catholic authorities. But lately I wonder if they haven’t done me a favor.

Since the age of 14, I have felt called to the priesthood. The only real opportunity I’ve been given to discern this call was through my studies for my master of divinity degree (at a Protestant divinity school, of course).

Perhaps it was the insurmountable heights of the ivory tower’s walls or the unshakable hope of feminist theology that clouded my judgment, but it wasn’t until graduation that I realized that an openly lesbian, unapologetically liberal Catholic woman with a M.Div. had somewhat limited career possibilities.

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